Review: A Father’s Story

A Father's Story
A Father’s Story by Lionel Dahmer

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Jeffrey Dahmer will long be remembered as one of the most gruesome and appalling serial killers of all time. But if there was any hope that the reader might gain any insight into his mental makeup by reading this memoir, by the man who should have known him better than any other, it is quickly dashed.

Lionel Dahmer reveals himself as a cold, emotionally distant father and husband who’s greatest influence upon his oldest son seems to have been to create an atmosphere of such utter disregard and disinterest that Jeffrey’s withdrawal into an interior landscape of cruel and twisted emotional violence is not only hastened, it is almost ensured. Between long, rambling barely-coherent attempts to place his son’s crimes into the context of his own failings as a person (Not a revelation goes by without an accompanying “Perhaps I had been naive…” or accompanying admission that Dahmer Senior had also had similar desires “but never took them that far”, as if he is so desperate to claim any sort of emotional connection that he is willing to take some sort of pale credit for his son’s monstrosities.) and slimy, ham-fisted attempts to place the blame for Jeffrey’s behaviour on anybody else but him– particularly his first wife, the fragile and quite-obviously emotionally bullied birth mother of his son’s, Lionel gives us less an insight into his son’s psyche than a pure view of a father and husband of stunning emotional disassociation: a weak, deluded, egotistical and loathsome little man whose multiple failings read like a litany of dissemblances and pitiful excuses.

A final chapter, added after Jeffrey’s death in prison, simply adds a film of utter loathing to the reading experience, as father somehow contrives to tie in a possible redemption for his son with an incoherent, self-serving diatribe about the righteousness of intelligent design.

This could have been a searing odyssey of truthfulness and revelation, giving the reader real insight into a father’s relationship with one of the most notorious monsters of our time. Instead, it is a worthless smattering of excuses, self-justifications, and oily smarminess. It is an utter disgrace.

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